The last decade has been filled with wonderful pieces of horror cinema. Films such as IT and Get Out have become modern classics to many movie-goers. While most of these have come from North American filmmakers, other foreign directors have aimed to make just as big an impact within the genre. Written and directed by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman (and adapted from their play of the same name), Ghost Stories is a recent horror release from Britain. Superb in its storytelling, this is a movie that presents us with highly effective scares, interwoven within some remarkable filmmaking.
Ghost Stories follows Professor Phillip Goodman, a supernatural skeptic whose beliefs are put to the test as he investigates three inexplicable cases. Andy Nyman portrays the aforementioned lead with Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther and Martin Freeman as supporting characters he meets along the way.
The film is presented as an anthology of sorts as Goodman interviews those involved with each case, before being shown extended sequences of the supposed events. This structure is the perfect foundation for the story above it, as our investment in the lead is developed with each chapter, delving into the supernatural mystery he is trying to uncover. Andy Nyman is solid as the lead (as is his co-stars), showing us an incredibly close-minded man as his entire world view is questioned. His introduction sets up the sections to follow, confidently easing you into the story before it tries to scare you. It is the start of the first case that the horror elements show their head, and with delightful effectiveness.
Transitioning from directing live plays to pieces of cinema is not an easy task. It would usually take years to shoot horror with the skill we see here. There is a chilling pace to each of the sub-stories, as we establish the scene and then begin the building of dread. Use of camera focus and pans are an inventive factor within all this, as we are shown filmmaking strengths sometimes not seen within the genre. Because they build the tension well, any jump scares feel completely earned. Identified by their own sub-titles in the film, these cases work beyond scaring us as they weave seamlessly into the narrative and are intriguing in their own right. This blend of fantastic storytelling and well executed scares, elevate the picture to something rather special.
Beyond the direction mentioned above, the technical aspects of the movie are constructed admirably. The cinematography by Ole Bratt Birkeland works really well as does the camera work. Furthermore, Frank Ilfmans score weaves well into what is a distinctively British production, in all the best ways.
Ghost Stories is a release that may have gone under the radar for many horror fans. This is a truly unfortunate fact as this is a film that blends the strengths of the genre within a well constructed tale. It is rather amazing that this is the first time these directors have created a movie. With their skills clearly evident, it hopefully will not be their last.